Toshiba NB550D review

The first Brazos netbook excels at graphical tasks, and battery life is immense. If only it had arrived last year

5
Price when reviewed 
301

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The Toshiba NB550D might not look special from the outside, but it’s what’s inside that matters: it’s the first netbook we’ve seen to ditch Intel’s Atom in favour of Brazos, the low-power opening salvo of AMD’s Fusion line-up.

At its heart lies the Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which combines the CPU, GPU, north bridge and memory controller all on to one compact 40nm die. Of the four Brazos APUs, we looked at the two Zacate nettop chips recently; the NB550D uses the AMD C-50, one of the two Ontario netbook chips. It has two CPU cores running at 1GHz, an integrated AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics core and a TDP of only 9W, so it looks ideally suited for a modern netbook.

Unfortunately, our benchmarks were hamstrung by the Toshiba’s steadfast refusal to install Sony’s Vegas Pro 10 – we can only surmise it’s a driver issue. Instead, we disabled all Vegas sections on both this netbook and an Atom N550 equivalent, and ran the remaining tasks to make a like-for-like comparison.

Toshiba NB550D

Intel’s Atom N550 has Hyper-Threading, which helped it complete our Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Cinebench tests a full 20% faster than the C-50. Across all tests, the C-50 was 15% slower on average, but it’s worth remembering this is despite each of its cores running at only 1GHz compared to the Atom’s 1.5GHz – a 33% reduction in clock speed. In our iTunes encoding test, the C-50 outperformed the Atom by 10%, and our application-switching test (minus Vegas) put the two neck and neck: the AMD took 90.7 seconds to complete the test; the Intel in 91.9 seconds.

Plus, thanks to the C-50’s out-of-order execution pipeline, our subjective experience was that the Toshiba NB550D felt every bit as responsive in daily use as any Atom netbook we’ve tested. For web browsing, tapping out an email or watching videos on BBC’s iPlayer, the AMD hardware is perfectly capable.

Not a great leap forward, then, but we haven’t got to the best bit yet – the integrated AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics core. Crysis is an unfair challenge to set a netbook, but installing TrackMania Nations Forever and running its built-in benchmark opened up a significant performance gap over the Intel integrated equivalent. Run at Medium detail and the standard netbook resolution of 1,024 x 600, the Toshiba managed an almost-playable average frame rate of 21fps, while the Intel netbook managed only 5fps.

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Warranty

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Physical specifications

Dimensions262 x 190 x 36mm (WDH)
Weight1.270kg
Travelling weight1.6kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorAMD Fusion C-50
Motherboard chipsetAMD Fusion
RAM capacity1.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total1

Screen and video

Screen size10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal1,024
Resolution screen vertical600
Resolution1024 x 600
Graphics chipsetAMD Radeon HD 6250
Graphics card RAM256MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0

Drives

Capacity250GB
Hard disk usable capacity233GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Hard diskToshiba MK2565GSXN
Optical disc technologyN/A
Optical driveN/A
Battery capacity5,300mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0

Networking

Wired adapter speed100Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)3
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readerno
MMC (multimedia card) readeryes
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetAMD HD Audio
Speaker locationWrist rest
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.3mp
TPMno
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use9hr 55min
3D performance (crysis) low settingsN/A
3D performance settingN/A

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Starter 32-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition
Software suppliedN/A

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